These models are implemented using a variety of numerical techniques. In general, the option writer is a well-capitalized institution in order to prevent the credit risk.
Options Trading 101
Among a few of the many ways, options can help you: Benefits of Trading Options: Orderly, Efficient and Liquid Markets Standardized option contracts allow for orderly, efficient and liquid option markets. Flexibility Options are an extremely versatile investment tool. Leverage An equity option allows investors to fix the price for a specific period of time at which an investor can purchase or sell shares of an equity for a premium price , which is only a percentage of what one would pay to own the equity outright.
Limited Risk for Buyer Unlike other investments where the risks may have no boundaries, options trading offers a defined risk to buyers. This options trading guide provides an overview of characteristics of equity options and how these investments work in the following segments: Two Ways to Sell Options Options: Benefits and Risk Next: This site discusses exchange-traded options issued by the Options Clearing Corporation.
No statement on this site is to be construed as a recommendation to purchase or sell a security, or to provide investment advice. Options involve risks and are not suitable for all investors. Prior to buying or selling an option, a person must receive and review a copy of Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options published by The Options Clearing Corporation. Any strategies discussed, including examples using actual securities and price data, are strictly for illustrative and education purposes and are not to be construed as an endorsement, recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell securities.
Today, many options are created in a standardized form and traded through clearing houses on regulated options exchanges , while other over-the-counter options are written as bilateral, customized contracts between a single buyer and seller, one or both of which may be a dealer or market-maker.
Options are part of a larger class of financial instruments known as derivative products , or simply, derivatives. A financial option is a contract between two counterparties with the terms of the option specified in a term sheet. Option contracts may be quite complicated; however, at minimum, they usually contain the following specifications: Exchange-traded options also called "listed options" are a class of exchange-traded derivatives. Exchange-traded options have standardized contracts, and are settled through a clearing house with fulfillment guaranteed by the Options Clearing Corporation OCC.
Since the contracts are standardized, accurate pricing models are often available. Over-the-counter options OTC options, also called "dealer options" are traded between two private parties, and are not listed on an exchange. The terms of an OTC option are unrestricted and may be individually tailored to meet any business need.
In general, the option writer is a well-capitalized institution in order to prevent the credit risk. Option types commonly traded over the counter include:. By avoiding an exchange, users of OTC options can narrowly tailor the terms of the option contract to suit individual business requirements. In addition, OTC option transactions generally do not need to be advertised to the market and face little or no regulatory requirements.
However, OTC counterparties must establish credit lines with each other, and conform to each other's clearing and settlement procedures. With few exceptions,  there are no secondary markets for employee stock options.
These must either be exercised by the original grantee or allowed to expire. The most common way to trade options is via standardized options contracts that are listed by various futures and options exchanges. By publishing continuous, live markets for option prices, an exchange enables independent parties to engage in price discovery and execute transactions.
As an intermediary to both sides of the transaction, the benefits the exchange provides to the transaction include:. These trades are described from the point of view of a speculator. If they are combined with other positions, they can also be used in hedging.
An option contract in US markets usually represents shares of the underlying security. A trader who expects a stock's price to increase can buy a call option to purchase the stock at a fixed price " strike price " at a later date, rather than purchase the stock outright. The cash outlay on the option is the premium. The trader would have no obligation to buy the stock, but only has the right to do so at or before the expiration date. The risk of loss would be limited to the premium paid, unlike the possible loss had the stock been bought outright.
The holder of an American-style call option can sell his option holding at any time until the expiration date, and would consider doing so when the stock's spot price is above the exercise price, especially if he expects the price of the option to drop. By selling the option early in that situation, the trader can realise an immediate profit. Alternatively, he can exercise the option — for example, if there is no secondary market for the options — and then sell the stock, realising a profit.
A trader would make a profit if the spot price of the shares rises by more than the premium. For example, if the exercise price is and premium paid is 10, then if the spot price of rises to only the transaction is break-even; an increase in stock price above produces a profit.
If the stock price at expiration is lower than the exercise price, the holder of the options at that time will let the call contract expire and only lose the premium or the price paid on transfer. A trader who expects a stock's price to decrease can buy a put option to sell the stock at a fixed price "strike price" at a later date. The trader will be under no obligation to sell the stock, but only has the right to do so at or before the expiration date.
If the stock price at expiration is below the exercise price by more than the premium paid, he will make a profit. If the stock price at expiration is above the exercise price, he will let the put contract expire and only lose the premium paid. In the transaction, the premium also plays a major role as it enhances the break-even point. For example, if exercise price is , premium paid is 10, then a spot price of to 90 is not profitable.
He would make a profit if the spot price is below It is important to note that one who exercises a put option, does not necessarily need to own the underlying asset. Specifically, one does not need to own the underlying stock in order to sell it.
The reason for this is that one can short sell that underlying stock. A trader who expects a stock's price to decrease can sell the stock short or instead sell, or "write", a call. The trader selling a call has an obligation to sell the stock to the call buyer at a fixed price "strike price".
If the seller does not own the stock when the option is exercised, he is obligated to purchase the stock from the market at the then market price. If the stock price decreases, the seller of the call call writer will make a profit in the amount of the premium. If the stock price increases over the strike price by more than the amount of the premium, the seller will lose money, with the potential loss being unlimited.
A trader who expects a stock's price to increase can buy the stock or instead sell, or "write", a put. The trader selling a put has an obligation to buy the stock from the put buyer at a fixed price "strike price". If the stock price at expiration is above the strike price, the seller of the put put writer will make a profit in the amount of the premium. If the stock price at expiration is below the strike price by more than the amount of the premium, the trader will lose money, with the potential loss being up to the strike price minus the premium.
Combining any of the four basic kinds of option trades possibly with different exercise prices and maturities and the two basic kinds of stock trades long and short allows a variety of options strategies. Simple strategies usually combine only a few trades, while more complicated strategies can combine several.
Strategies are often used to engineer a particular risk profile to movements in the underlying security. For example, buying a butterfly spread long one X1 call, short two X2 calls, and long one X3 call allows a trader to profit if the stock price on the expiration date is near the middle exercise price, X2, and does not expose the trader to a large loss.
Selling a straddle selling both a put and a call at the same exercise price would give a trader a greater profit than a butterfly if the final stock price is near the exercise price, but might result in a large loss. Similar to the straddle is the strangle which is also constructed by a call and a put, but whose strikes are different, reducing the net debit of the trade, but also reducing the risk of loss in the trade. One well-known strategy is the covered call , in which a trader buys a stock or holds a previously-purchased long stock position , and sells a call.
If the stock price rises above the exercise price, the call will be exercised and the trader will get a fixed profit. If the stock price falls, the call will not be exercised, and any loss incurred to the trader will be partially offset by the premium received from selling the call. Overall, the payoffs match the payoffs from selling a put. This relationship is known as put-call parity and offers insights for financial theory.
Another very common strategy is the protective put , in which a trader buys a stock or holds a previously-purchased long stock position , and buys a put. This strategy acts as an insurance when investing on the underlying stock, hedging the investor's potential loses, but also shrinking an otherwise larger profit, if just purchasing the stock without the put.
The maximum profit of a protective put is theoretically unlimited as the strategy involves being long on the underlying stock. The maximum loss is limited to the purchase price of the underlying stock less the strike price of the put option and the premium paid.
A protective put is also known as a married put. Another important class of options, particularly in the U. Other types of options exist in many financial contracts, for example real estate options are often used to assemble large parcels of land, and prepayment options are usually included in mortgage loans.
However, many of the valuation and risk management principles apply across all financial options. There are two more types of options; covered and naked. Options valuation is a topic of ongoing research in academic and practical finance. In basic terms, the value of an option is commonly decomposed into two parts:. Although options valuation has been studied at least since the nineteenth century, the contemporary approach is based on the Black—Scholes model which was first published in The value of an option can be estimated using a variety of quantitative techniques based on the concept of risk neutral pricing and using stochastic calculus.
The most basic model is the Black—Scholes model. More sophisticated models are used to model the volatility smile. These models are implemented using a variety of numerical techniques. More advanced models can require additional factors, such as an estimate of how volatility changes over time and for various underlying price levels, or the dynamics of stochastic interest rates. The following are some of the principal valuation techniques used in practice to evaluate option contracts.
Following early work by Louis Bachelier and later work by Robert C. Merton , Fischer Black and Myron Scholes made a major breakthrough by deriving a differential equation that must be satisfied by the price of any derivative dependent on a non-dividend-paying stock. By employing the technique of constructing a risk neutral portfolio that replicates the returns of holding an option, Black and Scholes produced a closed-form solution for a European option's theoretical price.
While the ideas behind the Black—Scholes model were ground-breaking and eventually led to Scholes and Merton receiving the Swedish Central Bank 's associated Prize for Achievement in Economics a.